Andrea Potos’s ninth poetry collection opens with this John Keats epigraph:
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
It is true that the beauty in this world sustains us. Even after physical manifestation or terrestrial existence has ceased, the idea, essence, soul of the person or thing endures.
When a loved one passes away, he or she truly remains “forever in our hearts.”
Judging by the poems in Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019), Andrea’s late mother embodied a rare brand of temporal as well as spiritual beauty. Though beauty is always in her line of sight (as it is with most poets), when it is viewed through the lens of personal loss and grief, it acquires tender and poignant facets as it becomes an agent of solace and healing.
Sorrow heightens perception as emotional guard rails fall away. When we mourn, we are blessed with divine clarity.
In these exquisitely crafted poems, Andrea honors her beloved mother by distilling memories that emerge like scattered shells on a beach: “I hold them up/to my ears. On certain days/inside their silence I can hear/the echoes of your voice.”
We get an intimate sense of her mother’s loveliness and presence through color, light, sensation, sound, image, impression — beautifully sculpted moments that transport us to the center of love and longing: “These pink lilies rising from clear stillness,/ these yellow butterflies stitching a path through daylilies and reeds,” “a fragrance beyond air/a whole melding of the lost rooms of my mother’s house, vanilla scent of her coffee, her Greek oregano, cinnamon just past its freshness but potent enough to be here,” “tranquil joy/on her face like/Renoir/might have painted,/light dappling around and through her.”
Andrea also writes about her other loves — art (Renoir, Cassatt), literature (Dickinson, Alcott), faraway places (Ireland, Italy), her daughter and grandmother — all of which informs and enriches her poetic vision.
I love how she illuminates the eternal bond between mother and daughter with her elegant flashes of beauty:
WHERE YOU MIGHT FIND HER
In the dusky sky before dreaming,
behind the cobalt
curtain of your eyelids as
or rise —
on that landing just before waking–
precipice of expression — her face
like goldleaf shining.
one year later
Through the marrow
she was gone
through the hollow
into the bone-
core of our longing,
the colors of
her coral blouse
scattered with tiny
Oh, the beautiful anguish (“the bone-core of our longing” kills me . . . )!
With Mothershell, Andrea has created “a bower quiet for us,” a place both prayerful and powerful in its emotional scope.
Here are three more of my favorite poems from the book: